Pulse: The Buzz: Flipping Out

How flip-flops became summer’s default footwear — and why it’s wrong

Let me be clear. There is nothing wrong with flip-flops. Classic rubber sandals — I’d call them thongs, but you’d laugh — are summertime staples. At the Shore, they’re essential, protecting your feet from hot dunes, getting wet without getting ruined, slipping on and off, easy-peasy. Flip-flops are exactly what you should wear with a bikini or swim trunks — since you should never wear tennis shoes, heels, ballet flats, etc., with beachwear of any kind.

Used to be, you’d buy one $3 pair of flips at Hoy’s around Memorial Day. By Labor Day, you’d have worn them thin during round-trip treks to the beach. Today, you purchase them at Bloomie’s or Knit Wit in Margate, pay 10 times more, and, apparently, wear them wherever you damn well please. Which is okay, I guess, if you don’t mind filthy feet, or if you want to look like a total incompetent on your way into the office.

That last phrase was a little strong, wasn’t it? Not really. This omnipresent flip-flop phenomenon isn’t just a fashion emergency: It’s an epidemic. Suddenly, Havaianas and their ilk — which too often feature unwieldy platform soles, uncalled-for rhinestone studding, and other decorations that can’t disguise the fact that they are, in fact, five-and-dime merch — are having a regrettable Working Girl moment. Flip-flops are the new Reebok high-tops.

This is unfortunate. Because rubber sandals, no matter how bedazzled, never look nice with beyond-the-beach clothing. Paired with a business suit, they instantly negate their wearer’s authority. They look, in a word, lazy. Sure, they’re convenient. But they also cause soles to turn pollution-gray, inspire over-pronation and stubbed toes, and compromise your ability to back up, or speed up. (Think running in heels is hard? Try running in flip-flops.)

Of course, in a town where half the population under the age of 30 thinks it’s fine to wear pajama bottoms to cafes, where businessmen still haven’t read the no-pleated-pants memo, where I just saw a grown woman walking down Walnut Street in boxer shorts, sins of style are nothing new.

Still, when it comes to what not to wear, everybody draws a line somewhere. In this case, let the line be in the sand.

  • renee

    I agree with the article, there is a time and place for everything and wearing flip flops everywhere is definitey a fashion faux pas. I am no fashionista myself, but i dread looking down and seeing flip flops in work. My other pet peeve is guys wearing them, another no no.

  • Michelle

    Like any ubiquitous item, Uggs, Ed Hardy t-shirts, Reebok high-tops, etc, the appearance of flip-flops touches a nerve. They should obviously never be worn as a part of business attire, but their presence in a grocery store at a dog park or the like doesn’t offend me. I also see their merit as a “commuting shoe.” Their compact shape, and light weight make them easily stowed in a purse for emergencies. Much like snow boots in the winter, galoshes in the rain, flip-flops can (and should be) replaced with appropriate footwear once one reaches her office.